My son, now 8, is with me in the elevator. It is late on a Friday and he pulls a lime out of his jacket pocket. It isn’t wrapped in a grocery bag. Just a loose lime.
My immediate thought is that he stole it. I ask him where he got it from and begin peppering him with questions as to discourage him from ever stealing again. It reminded me of all of my regrets. It reminded me of how risky his life is. It reminded me of the way everyone thought I stole things and how hard he will have to work to be innocent. How guilty he is by default. How everyone thinks we steal things. How hard is it for me to believe him when he’s saying he didn’t steal it?
About a half hour later, I finally calmed down and asked why he had the lime. He repeated his story, telling me he was at the store with his maternal grandmother and asked if he could bring it to me. Because he thought I may need it. And I did need it. I told him so. After apologizing and hugging him. He cheered so happily, both hands raised up happy. So happy to be innocent for a crime he didn’t commit. It reminded me of exonerees walking out of jail/court - free!
That makes me a terrible system that locked him up? I criminalized him before considering the evidence or his word. Just how they do to me. In the elevator, I said, “Why is it so hard for me to believe you.” He just looked at me, sad. And I looked at him, sad too, because I thought he didn’t understand. But it was me.
Undo. Please. Undo.